Behind the Scenes of The Good Lieutenant

Whitney Terrell


Because The Good Lieutenant focuses on a female soldier, Lieutenant Emma Fowler, I realized early on that I was going to rely on the expertise of the many women who’d fought and served in Iraq—as well as the men. Former Sergeant Angela Fitle and Major Stacy Moore are two of the many veterans and active duty personnel who shared their experiences with me and advised me on this novel.

I met Angela through my wife, Gayle Levy, who taught Angela as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. Angela spent six years in the Army and deployed to Iraq in 2004–2005, where she was stationed at FOB Falcon. In Iraq, she worked as a logistics specialist and frequently participated in cordon and search missions as a member of a female search team. She left the Army as a sergeant in 2009 and enrolled at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

In 2006, I returned from my first embed in Iraq. A few years after that, Gayle put the two of us in touch. It turned out to be a fortuitous connection. Beginning in 2009, and continuing on at intervals for the next six years, Angela patiently sat down and talked to me about her experiences in the Army, and my own writing, in coffee shops, at our house, and in restaurants all over Kansas City. She was an invaluable resource and commentator, checking plot ideas and exploring the reactions that my main character, Emma Fowler, might have to a given situation. Angela worked with me so long that, while I was writing, she had time to attend law school at the University of Kansas, graduate with a law degree, pass the bar, and become a lawyer.

Major Stacy Moore has been in the Army for fourteen years. In 2003–2004, she was based at Camp Speicher and led convoys as a lieutenant in Iraq. Her company logged 750,000 miles of road time during that deployment, traveling as far south as Kuwait, as far north as Mosul, and as far east as Kirkuk. She’s currently the XO to the commanding general for the First Infantry Division at Fort Riley. This summer she will be accepting an Arroyo Fellowship with the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, to research security sector reform.

I met Major Moore on post at Fort Riley in June of 2014. I’d gone there to do some research for the scenes from The Good Lieutenant that are set on and around the fort. The stories that she told at our first meeting were so vivid and engaging that I wrote some of them directly into the book, including a plot point involving some missing shackles. Since then, she has acted as an indispensible consultant on this novel, thoughtfully answering my queries and offering her advice on the special challenges that would face a female lieutenant in Iraq, which was exactly what she’d been. Sometimes she confirmed things I’d written; in other cases she offered insights that improved the book. She also shared with me her own reading list about women in combat, which I’ll post on my website, along with my own favorites.

I wish I could film conversations with all of the servicewomen and men who helped me as I wrote this book. Their stories are unique, powerful, and human. Their names are listed in the book and each one is a reminder that, more than anything I’ve ever written, this story was a group effort. The discussions I had with Angela, Stacy, and other soldiers after they’d read the final draft of The Good Lieutenant were for me the apex of the long eight-year arc that led to its completion. I feel like we’ve created something together. That’s why Angela and Stacy are the speakers in this video. And it’s why I thank them here.

The Good Lieutenant

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Whitney Terrell is the Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is a graduate of Princeton University and has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His first novel, The Huntsman, was a New York Times notable book. His nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, Details, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Observer, The Kansas City Star, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq during 2006 and 2010 and covered the war for The Washington Post Magazine, Slate, and NPR. He was born and raised in Kansas City.

Video Credits:
Producer/Director: Jerry Rapp
Camera: Tony Ontiveros
Sound: Solomon Bass
Editor: Ben Riggin
Production Asst: Jenny Hahn

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